Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

I’ve lived in Orange County for over 13 years now, and it’s the longest I’ve lived in a single area during my lifetime. I lived in Minneapolis for 11 years and San Diego for 7 prior to showing up in Orange County for college and then sticking around until the present day and beyond.  It wasn’t so much that I fell in love with Orange County as it was that I stuck around because a lot of my friends from college were still around and I didn’t know where else to go.  As some friends left, and some friendships started to fade, I wondered if it was time to move on.  It’s an idea that I’d toy around with every couple of years, but one that I was never convicted to act upon.  When I tried out online dating, I would occasionally check to see if my soul mate might be in one of my favorite cities like New York or Chicago to see if that would move the needle.  Alas, nothing came of those initial searches, so I returned to looking at Southern California.

I’ve been in a long distance relationship before, and while I completely understand why people tend to stay away from them, I personally would do it again if it was for the right person.  Of course, I know people that think that my current situation of dating someone in Los Angeles qualifies as long distance.   I know people are busy and that driving in Southern California is a chore, but it confuses me that people are so adamant about people dating people within a 15 mile radius after going through all the work that is online dating.  I find it extremely narcissistic to believe that “the one” is within a convenient 15 minute drive, or maybe I’m just bitter that it never seems to be the case for me.

I’ve dated a handful of girls in Orange County, some that grew up there and some that ended up there for school or work.  Whether they were born and raised there or not, there didn’t seem to be anything especially “Orange County” about them, or at least nothing like The Hills or The OC might lead people to believe.  It wasn’t until I tried online dating that I discovered that most girls (at least on dating sites) that are compatible with me, don’t live in Orange County, but in Los Angeles.  Obviously, part of that can be attributed to the fact that Los Angeles has more people, and therefore there’d be more matches, but it’s not like Orange County is a small desolate area.

My Los Angeles friends claim that Orange County folk are a completely different breed, stereotypes withstanding.  I’d like to think that growing up in San Diego would give me a unique perspective in the OC v LA debate, and while there are definitely some differences, there seem to be enough people in the OC or transplants that live here to make me believe that there has to be more than a few girls that I’m compatible with.  I once tried to date a girl from the OC who moved to LA, and even though things started great through e-mailing, things fell apart once we met in person.  For some reason, the chemistry was just not there.  She’d make jokes that didn’t land and I tried to be charming, but everything just fell flat.  I couldn’t put my finger on it.  It just didn’t click.

I eventually decided to cast my net past my initial 30 mile radius and I dipped my toe into the bigger pond known as Los Angeles.  Perhaps as some sort of rite of passage, I immediately dated an aspiring actress, then a girl with a fashion design background.  This was based on the online cards that I was dealt, opposed to me trying to date the most glamorous girls that I could find.  I did for a while, fall in love with the idea, that I was supposed to be dating girls of this ilk, and that’s the reason why I had so many lean dating years in my 20s.  I met some great girls, but they were all too busy to fit me into their chaotic and overbooked lives.  Eventually, I would start dating girls that had more “normal” careers, which didn’t immediately change my dating fortunes like I had hoped.  Even when it came to dating the “normal” girls, the online dating sites continued to direct me north, and right when I was at the end of my rope, I found success.

While I’ve noticed myself spending more and more time in LA since I first moved to Orange County for college, it’s not like people who enjoy music and comedy are exclusive to LA.  The journey didn’t reveal to me what was so different between the girls of LA and  the girls of OC, so I’ll never know why an overwhelming number of matches were just far enough away where it was almost inconvenient.   It’s a moot issue at this point, and my love life has never tried to sit me down and explain anything.  But, since a computer was involved this time around, it seems like now would be a better time than any to ask for a logical explanation.

 

 

I don’t just like things, I love things, and I especially love to geek out about those things.  Whether it be music, sports, or food and drinks, my interests are rarely casual.  While I’ve done no research on the matter, my experience has taught me that those who share my specific geekery tend to be men.  Most of the record store workers, draft prospect followers. BBQ fanatics, and  beer / whiskey snobs that I’ve ever met have been mostly guys,  so when a girl happens to enjoy these topics on a similarly fanatical level, she tends to be look at as something like a unicorn.  They exist, I’ve had my heart broken by a couple of them.  I also have a friend that fits that description and she can quickly amass quite the fan club.  My girlfriend is not on of these unicorns, but when we first started dating, she took an interest in learning about the things I love, and that proceeded to get her into some very awkward encounters.

A couple of months into our relationship, she went to Coachella with her friend.  During some downtime, she decided to go to the record tent to see if she could pick up a gift for me.  A random guy struck up a conversation with her, asking her what she was looking for, so she told him “The Replacements”, because she knew I was looking for their new covers record.  This, and also his possible interest in her friend, caused him to start talking about his appreciation for The Replacements which somehow quickly segued into him talking about how he was also a Canadian folk musician, who was unfortunately not Neil Young.  She told him that she was also looking for Husker Dü records, also per my request, and that caused him to scoff “Nobody who likes music would admit to liking them.”, which is a strange thing to say about a non-mainstream punk band.  My assumption is that he didn’t actually know who Husker Dü was or that Husker Dü and The Replacements came out of the same music scene so they shared a lot of fans, but my girlfriend wasn’t equipped with this information.  She just shrugged it off, but her and her friend were stuck with this annoying guy following them around and trying to talk about music, all because he thought he had an “in” when he heard her mention The Replacements.

A couple of months later, she was waiting on a friend for happy hour at a gastropub.  When she looked at the beer list, she said that they had Pliny the Elder on tap, and she remembered me mentioning once that it’s one of my favorite beers.  She ordered it, and immediately that caught the attention of a guy, who took that as a cue to strike up a conversation with her about craft beer.  My girlfriend likes sour beers, she’ll even suggest checking out breweries in the area, but she’s not someone that regularly talks about beer.  While it’s possible that he would’ve hit on her anyways, the chances of him approaching her in the first place would’ve been much lower had she ordered a more nondescript and less classy drink.  He thought he had found a unicorn, and became agitated when he found out that my girlfriend didn’t want to talk about hops and IPAs.

While my girlfriend may not be a music geeking, beer drinking unicorn, she manages to put up with music geeking, beer drinking me, and that’s more than I could possibly ask for.  At first, I felt bad, or even a bit responsible for the fact that she had these encounters with these guys, but in a way, these encounters opened some sort of window to who I could’ve been, if I had continued to be so hung up on trying to find someone who was exactly like me, looking for that someone who shared the same amount of enthusiasm for all the same things.  While my girlfriend may not know who The Replacements are, she’ll willingly go to a music festival that The Replacements are playing at, and while she may not try to figure out what makes a certain beer so good, she can at least appreciate different kinds of beer.  She knows enough to understand my geeking and in the end, I’m glad that I understand that’s all I really need.  Let the others chase after the unicorns.  I don’t need one.